Israelis Helping To End Terrorist Mall Siege in Kenya
September 22, 2013
Report: Israeli Forces Join Efforts to End Kenya SiegeGunmen, hostages, still reportedly holed up in shopping mall amid continuing reports that non-Muslims were deliberately singled out. By Ari Soffer First Publish: 9/22/2013, 12:45 PM
Israel security forces have joined their Kenyan counterparts in the fight to rescue hostages captured by Islamist terrorists at a Nairobi mall.
"The Israelis have just entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured," a security source said on condition he not be named.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the reports.
"We don't make a habit of commenting on security cooperation of any kind that there may or may not be," Paul Hirschson told AFP.
Israel and Kenya have a long history of friendly ties and close security and intelligence cooperation.
The latest development comes as the death toll in a bloody shooting spree by Islamist terrorists at a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi continues to rise, as several gunman have barricaded themselves in the mall, along with a number of hostages.
Officials in the east African country have raised the official death toll to 59, many of them children and the elderly, after gunmen from the Al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab embarked on a bloody rampage through the luxurious Westgate mall in Nairobi. A further 175 people are believed to have been injured in the attack.
According to numerous media and official reports, as of this morning between 10-15 gunmen remain inside the mall, along with approximately 30 hostages, and were holding out against Kenyan security forces.
Witnesses described how the terrorists opened fire with assault weapons, mowing down men, women, children and the elderly.
The attack was not entirely "indiscriminate," however: multiple eyewitnesses described how victims were "vetted" by the terrorists, who made them recite Muslim prayers to ascertain their religion. Those who were able to prove that they were Muslim were allowed to go free, while non-Muslims were deliberately murdered in cold blood.
On its official "Twitter" account, Al Shabaab confirmed that Muslims had been "escorted" to safety, whilst "infidels" were targeted for death, and claimed to be holding at least 36 hostages.
One man described to how the terrorists methodically selected their victims.
"They came and said: 'If you are Muslim, stand up. We've come to rescue you'," Elijah Lamau told the BBC.
He said that the Muslims left with their hands up, following which the terrorists gunned down two people.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had said in a televised address to the nation late Saturday that he had lost family members in the attack.
"Let me make it clear. We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get them. We shall punish them for this heinous crime," he vowed.
The Westgate mall is popular with wealthy Kenyans and expatriates, and was packed with around 1,000 shoppers when the gunmen marched in at midday Saturday, tossed grenades and sprayed automatic gunfire at terrified people. The mall was targeted on an especially busy day, as the weekend rush reached its height with Kenyans and foreign tourists visiting its shops, restaurants and cinemas.
Security agencies have long feared that the shopping center could be targeted by Al Qaeda-linked groups.
The attack is the worst in Nairobi since an Al-Qaeda bombing at the US embassy killed more than 200 people in 1998.
After a day and night of sometimes ferocious gun battles, security sources said police and soldiers had finally "pinned down" the gunmen. The Kenyan Red Cross appealed for blood donations and authorities urged residents to steer clear of the area.
"We are still battling with the attackers and our forces have managed to maroon the attackers on one of the floors," said Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna. "We hope to bring this to an end today."
Excerpt from "Major Assault Underway To End Kenya Mall Standoff"
"...Westgate Mall is at least partially owned by Israelis, and reports circulated that Israeli commandos were on the ground to assist in the response. Four restaurants inside the mall are Israeli-run or owned.
In Israel, a senior defense official said there were no Israeli forces participating in an assault, but the official said it was possible that Israeli advisers were providing assistance. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a classified military issue, would not elaborate.
Israel has close ties to Kenya going back many years. And in recent years, Israel has identified East Africa as an area of strategic interest and stepped up ties with Kenya and other neighboring countries, due to shared threats posed by al Qaeda and other extremist elements.
In 2002, militants bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel near Mombasa, killing 13 people, and tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time. Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including British, French, Canadians, Indians, a Ghanaian, a South African and a Chinese woman..."
Israeli Man Describes Horror of Kenya MassacreIsraeli man Yariv Keidar narrowly escaped with his life as several around him were gunned down. By Maayana Miskin First Publish: 9/22/2013, 8:32 AM
Several Israelis were caught up in the terrorist massacre Saturday at a popular mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that left at least 39 people dead and over 150 wounded.
Yariv Keidar, 53, described his experience during the attack, and explained how he survived as others around him were gunned down.
"I was sitting and having lunch on the balcony of a coffee shop at the entrance to the Westgate Mall in central Nairobi," he began. "It's a very popular mall with the middle and upper classes, and it's a nice meeting place."
Everything was quiet, he said – and then suddenly, at 12:25 in the afternoon, everything changed. "Suddenly I heard the sound of explosions and gunfire from every direction. A group of men on motorcycles came to the front of the mall and opened fire indiscriminately, while bursting inside."
"My immediate reaction was to lay down on the floor to protect myself," he continued. "The local woman I was with did the same, but a European man at the next table who stood and did not lay on the floor was hit by a bullet and fell."
The wounded man was later saved by waiters, who risked their lives to crawl to him and bring him out of the building.
Keidar and his companion were on the floor for half an hour. "I understood that the terrorists could reach me at any moment. That whole time I heard blasts, apparently from grenades being thrown in the mall, and intense gunfire, and the cries of the wounded.
"The whole time I thought of how to survive the massacre. I realized it was a terrorist attack, not a robbery, and I decided to hide my Israeli ID cards, like my driver's license. I managed to use my cell phone to call some senior Israeli sources and report to them.
He also called another Israeli man he knew was in the mall to check on him. The man and an Israeli employee of his had saved themselves by hiding in a bathroom, and an Israeli woman in the same area had managed to run out of the building without injury.
"At that point, I managed to take my telephone and the woman with me and to crawl from the balcony through a small gate leading to the street, and from there, out of the danger zone," he recalled.
"I saw how many people had been wounded in the horrific attack. There were mothers who had fled carrying children, and wounded people who had been brought out in shopping carts," he said.
"The Kenyan security forces arrived only after half an hour, and worked slowly," Keidar charged.
Keidar is in Kenya as a senior manager in Amiran, an Israeli company that works to develop the horticulture and floriculture industries in Kenya and elsewhere in east Africa.
Some other witnesses reported after the attack that the terrorists told Muslims to leave, and allowed several Muslims to walk away while targeting non-Muslims present. They tested those claiming to be Muslim with questions about the religion.
The Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Several foreign nationals were among the dead, including two French women and two Canadian citizens. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has reported that members of his extended family are among the dead as well.
One of the shooters has been killed, and several others have been arrested. However, as night fell in Nairobi, several shooters were still barricaded inside the mall, and security forces were concerned that there may still be victims trapped inside.